Today, reading a blog, I clicked on a link that took me to an answer on Quora.com, which is a site that I can’t recall ever visiting although it’s possible that I may have hit it using Stumble Upon or something similar in the past. My CyberGhost VPN was active. I scrolled down to the bottom of the page and there was my name and an invitation to submit further details. How could this be? I’m most concerned. I did not submit any information to this site during this session. How could it have identified me if I was using a VPN?
The fact the you’re using a VPN has almost nothing to do with this. A VPN protects your connection from the prying eyes of people between you and the VPN service, but that’s about it.
A couple of other things are going on here.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
If you may have visited this site in the past but simply don’t remember, it could be as simple as cookies that were left behind by your prior visit. That’s pretty much what cookies are for: remembering things between visits to the same website.
Now, this has nothing to do with your VPN or how you’re connected to the internet. It’s all about the information that site saves on your computer.
Another increasingly common scenario is actually surprisingly simple. Were you logged into Facebook at the time? Many sites use Facebook as their commenting system provider. Thus, what you may have seen was your information being displayed by Facebook on the website page you were visiting.
Generally, the website doesn’t get the details of who you are. That’s encapsulated by Facebook, but it’s still possible that they do. Anyway, it’s usually pretty simple to see if this is the case. There will typically be a Facebook icon nearby your name or the other information that you recognize as your own.
Now, taking a quick look at Quora, I noticed that they also encourage people to login using Google in addition to Facebook, so it’s possible that this functionality, showing who you are, is being provided by Google.
Even if you’re not logged into Quora using Google or Facebook, that information about who you are could still be provided if you happen to be logged into them in some other window (like looking at your Google mail or being logged into your Facebook account.)
There are even other third parties; for example a service called Disqus that is targeted to provide exactly the same kind of service. They provide commenting services for websites. If you log in to comment on one website using Disqus, it’s possible that your login or information is remembered if you go to another website that just happens to use the same commenting system. And it’s very possible that they can happen even if you’ve never visited this second site ever before.
5 comments on “How does a site identify me when I am using a VPN?”
VPN services offer safe and anonymous browsing experience for the internet users. Secure browsing becomes important for many parties for different reasons. Companies as well as individuals use VPN services for anonymous browsing. When you are using a VPN service, you get access to world wide web without running a risk of compromising any sensitive information that you wish to withhold from outsiders.
Thank you Very nice article.
so how come that the moment we shut down our vpn, we gain back acces to that site, if vpn almost have nothign to do with the fact we got our vpn . He asked why do they know he is hiding is ip and why they know its not is real ip and how to do so he can have a fake ip that will always look like a real ip. That what he want to know, and all those site that always rank the same vpn almost in the same order, people wake up, there are the worst of then all.. is paid, and the blogger, I am not even sure if they wrote the blog our used a A.I. to do it for themselve so they feel less cheap as they are lying big time about what is the best vpn
I assume this is possibly the same for mobile? They identify you sometimes but I always clear cache and cookies upon logout. VPN and phone saves nothing as the logs are always cleared. Must be something like on your article that is saved.
It would be similar on mobile devices.
Could be an ad identifier. All phones have them. Some sites I’ve noticed even when using a vpn and also not allowing apps to track me as well as having apple ads turned to off, they still recognize me. Like you, I always clear cookies,cache aand so on when I log off.
Each time though, when hidden something from these few sites recognize me. Has to be something’s that’s not hidden somewhere. There sadly usually is.